Alternate Perceptions Magazine, May 2019
Flatwoods at 67
by: Rick Hilberg
The Friday evening of September 12, 1952 was a typical pleasant late summer one. School was back in session, much to the disgust of most school age children since the beginning of formal education. The country was in the throes of a presidential election campaign between Illinois governor Adli Strevenson and a former army general named Dwight Eisenhower. The “police action” in far-off Korea was receiving much play in the newspapers, as well as on that new medium called “television.”
Just before dusk that evening in many parts of the Eastern Seaboard, many people would call their local police and newspapers to report what appeared to be meteors streaking through the twilight sky.
On that evening at around 7:30, a group of boys were playing football at the local elementary school in the small town of Flatwood, West Virginia. Suddenly, the athletic activity was interrupted by the passage of a bright object flying through the sky. Some of the boys described the flying “thing” as looking like “a silver dollar going through the sky” trailing what looked like fire. Whatever it was it seemed to land on a hill located on the Bailey Fisher farm. One boy said that before it landed it flew low, just above the hilltop and hovered briefly, and looked somewhat “like a door falling down flatwise.”
After it fell, several of the young people said that the intruder still glowed and pulsated at regular intervals from atop the hill. They decided then and there to have a look-see at what this aerial intruder might be. They walked to the B&O railroad depot and around the road that would lead them to the landing area. While on the road they passed the home of Mrs. Kathleen May, and after telling her what they were up to, she decided to join them. At that time the party of explorers was complete. Besides Mrs. May and her two young sons Eddie and Theodore, the group consisted of a 17-year-old national guardsman named Gene Lemon, and youngsters Ronald Shaver, Theodore Neal and Neal Nunley. As they approached the spot some 300 yards or so above the Fisher farm house, they began to notice a fog or mist atop the hillside as well as smell an irritating and nauseating odor that several of the party described as “metallic.” The first thing they saw as they climbed the hill was a large globular mass down over the hillside to their right. “It was just like a big ball of fire,” Neal Nunley said, and seemed to be pulsating at regular intervals. While all seven didn’t notice the big ball of fire, as Gene Lemon was leading the way with flashlight in hand, he said that he sighted a pair of eyes glowing brightly through the fog, somewhat like the eyes of an animal such as an opossum caught in a tree.
It was at this point that all seven of them saw the thing behind the glowing eyes. It was in the shape of a manlike creature with an oversized head of an orange fire-like color. They figured that it was at least 10 or 12 feet tall, as “it” was standing under the limb of a large tree that was 15 feet off the ground and said that its eyes protruded and seemed to throw off beams of light. They described the body as being of a dark green color. Mrs. May thought that the green seemed to fall in clothing-like folds or pleats, and that the creature had small claw-like hands extended in front of it. Whatever it was, it seemed to be heading towards them, either shuffling or gliding along. After Gene Lemon got a look at the hideous form looming ever closer, he dropped his flashlight and ran for his very life down the hill, followed by the other six trekkers. No one bothered to look back.
Mrs. May ran to a nearby home and notified the Braxton County Sheriff’s Department as well as the state police. However, Sheriff Robert Carr was over in nearby Frametown checking on the reported crash of an airplane, an airplane that was never found and very well may have been the flying thing sighted by the witnesses in Flatwoods.
The first outside person on the scene to investigate was Ace Lee Stewart, Jr. who was the editor of the Braxton Democrat newspaper from the county seat of Sutton. By the time Stewart arrived on the scene it was too dark to see much of anything, so he concentrated on interviewing the witnesses to the frightening event.
The Lemon boy was so overcome by the experience as well as the nauseating stench at the site of the “monster” that a doctor was called to administer medication. The other members of the party were similarly affected, but not to such an extreme extent as Lemon. About 7 a.m. the next morning Stewart went again to visit the site of the encounter. He said that the grass was waist high on the hill and that there were two wide skid marks about 10 or 12 feet apart and each about 10 yards long, and that the grass was trampled at each end. Bending down and getting close to the ground, he was able to smell the strange odor. He also noted that there were some spots on the grass in the area that appeared to be grease or oil. He speculated that these spots could have been caused by the Fisher tractor, but later found out that the hill was too steep for it to be used at that location.
There the whole matter rests, now 67 years later. The town is still a small one, almost frozen in time. A new elementary school rests on the site of the old one in use in 1952, otherwise things remain much as they were. There have been several mini-conventions held in the town in recent years to commemorate the event, each bringing in a few hundred people to spend some cash in town and to purchase souvenirs. (Never mind the bizarre claims by a writer recently that the Flatwoods “UFO” and “monster” were shot down on some sort of secret epic air battle between the saucerians and the U.S. Air Force.) However, the hill where the seven searchers saw the hideous “thing” is now owned by a local doctor who constructed a large castle-like home on the site of the encounter, so the convention festivities actually were held on the next hill over.
What did these simple folk see? Was it a meteor the children thought they saw “land” on the hill, and the rest being the result of the power of suggestion? Or did “something” from “somewhere” intrude into the lives of seven West Virginians?
We will probably never know for sure.